Major Life Influence #2: Moving to Vermont at 16

This is the second of a five-post series of major life influences. See here for where it all began, and here for the first major influence.

The second major life influence was when my family left the Philadelphia area and moved to rural Vermont the summer I turned 16.

We had only discovered Vermont a year earlier, when family friends of ours (The Tebbs) invited us to house-sit for them while they spent several weeks on an overseas trip. We had easily fallen in love with Vermont, with its lush, rolling green hills, crisp mountain streams and glittering starry nights. We spent the next 8 months or so obsessing about it until finally my parents announced that we were going to move there.

One of the things I liked instantly about the culture in Vermont was how laid back everyone was about appearances. It might be something that would turn off the more fashion conscious person, but to me it was great. People wore practical clothing. Dressing up meant putting on your nicest pair of jeans and a clean shirt. Women didn’t dye their hair when it started going gray, they just let it do it’s thing. And speaking of hair, there was a lot of it. Men, women, children, everybody just let it all grow out.


So. much. hair.

It’s beginning to sound like we went and lived on a commune. It wasn’t that extreme. We did live with another family for a couple of years though. The Tebbs were also slowly working their way out of Christadelphia, although I don’t know that any of us really knew that at the time. What had bonded our families together was a similar open-mindedness about our faith and similar interests in education.

Living with the Tebbs family was a really cool experience, although it was at times stressful. Before we moved up, they built an addition to the house to make more room. When everyone was there, it was six McKelvies, four Tebbses and whatever boyfriends were in the picture at that time. The Tebbs were from England and often had visitors come and stay while we were there. We also had visitors from back home, and so sometimes the little house was positively bursting at the seams. That was when I loved it the most.


Happily squished around the dinner table.

Most of the time though, it was much quieter. Dad continued working in Philadelphia, and Uncle Trevor took on various professor jobs at colleges too far to commute to, so he was often living away as well. So the usual household was us kids and mom and Aunt Jenny.

Going to high school in Vermont was a world of difference from high school in New Jersey. As I mentioned earlier, people dressed much more practically. In fact, I even took scissors to my jeans and sewed patches on them to make them look more worn out and hippyish. I soon learned that the standard winter outfit was jeans, thick wool socks, a t-shirt and a heavy sweater. Thanks to the wood stoves in every home, you often had to take off the sweater or risk overheating.

Pursuing my passion as an artist seemed to fit better in Vermont as well. Of course it helped that we were living with the Tebbs, since Trevor was an accomplished painter and professor of art, and Jenny was a writer and a musician, and both of their daughters were artistically gifted. It was very inspiring to me and whatever time I wasn’t spending outside was spent hunched over a sketchbook or canvas, drawing or painting.


An illustration of Br’er Rabbit and Tar Baby I did for a high school project.

Speaking of outside, there was so much of it! I would often wander around in the woods with the dogs for hours, just thinking and looking at the different kinds of trees and plants. My favorite time to do this in the winter was twilight. The sky would go through a series of beautiful pinks and purples that would turn the snow and the world around me into a magical place.


Wandering around with the dogs and my 35mm camera.

In the summer, the Tebbs had beautiful gardens all around their house. I watched and helped Jenny cultivate the plants, and later, after I began a part-time job with Boardman Hill Farm, I started my own veggie garden plot. We’d had vegetable gardens in PA and NJ, but it wasn’t until VT that I really got into it myself. Sidenote, when I worked for Boardman Hill, they did not yet have pigs for slaughter. I would not have been down with that.

I liked living in Vermont so much, it’s a wonder that I ever left. But once I hit my 20’s, I got antsy and I thought I had a better chance at getting a good job in Connecticut. Which turned out to be true, of course. I still miss living in Vermont and it is my hope that someday I will be able to move back.

For now, I will just make do with regular visits.

Other Life Influences:

Being Raised Christadelphian


I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper. And I was free.

Throwback Thursday – Highlights from 1994

Not quite as hideous as 1993....

Not quite as hideous as 1993….

Here is my puffy, floral journal from 1994. I feel a little funny sharing it because the girl who wrote most of it doesn’t even really seem like me.

13 going on 14 is a strange time for most people, I guess. You’ve got the “teenager” label, and you think you’re really grown up but at the same time, you’re pretty much still a kid.

This journal is from kind of a weird time in my life. First of all, we moved out of the house that had grown up in, which was also the house that my father had grown up in. I felt like this was a huge insult, and spent a lot of time moaning about that in the journal.

The second “weird”” thing was that I was awkwardly obsessed with boys at this time. I saw awkwardly, because the one in particular that I was obsessed with was basically the only one available in my church group. I think it was more that I just wanted someone, ANYONE to be my boyfriend.

So without further ado, I present… deep thoughts from 1994.

Cue dramatic music...

Cue dramatic music…

April 15, 1994 4:49pm

I feel so weird. Today was my last day of school. I’m kind of glad. I made it through. I’ll never have to go back (see 1991 diary). I’m packing now. I am so confused. I don’t know where to start. I’ve cried already and now I’m losing my temper. What a mess. Well, tomorrow’s the big day. I am so sad I will probably cry myself to death.

Well, gotta go. Love, a very emotionally disturbed Heather.

April 16, 1994 10:09pm

I’m still alive!! I didn’t really cry today. I had tears in my eyes at times but I didn’t weep or wail. I’m like, emotionless. I guess it’s depression. I feel empty and lonely inside. I will see my old house again. I hate calling it my old house.  It sounds like a piece of trash or something. I miss it. 

Today was busy, I went wacko trying to 1. pack, 2. control my emotions, 3. unpack and make this place feel like home. 

I miss my house.

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. 

Editors note: I drew a tiny pair of ruby slippers next to that sentiment.

Tuesday, April 19, 1994

Today we went home (our OLD house) to clean up. I cleaned John & Nick’s room and Kris & my room. I kept a lot of little things that I found. Someday I want to buy the house back or something. 

It was like 80 degrees there today, and beautiful. It made me cry because I know once we are all done cleaning it, we’ll never see it again. I was standing there in John and Nick’s room, vacuum in hand, looking out the window at the baby leaves on the trees. I said to Mommy, “isn’t it so beautiful?” That made me start to cry. Tears welled up in my eyes. I fought them back because I knew if I started crying I would never stop. But when mom asked if I was ok, I began to cry. Amazingly it helped and I felt better from then on. 

Gram was there with us. It must be so hard for her, since our grandfather built that house and they raised their family there. She didn’t cry in front of us. Or at least I don’t think so. I wanted to comfort her. It must be so hard for her. I mean I was like, crying every 5 minutes.

On Thursday we are going to come back up and bring the camera and I’ll make Mommy take pictures of EVERYTHING! I hope I never forget all the things that happened there. Here are some major events:

1. Birthdays 2. Holidays 3. My first period (seriously, this ranked #3) 4. Operations 5. Sleepovers 6. Swimming 7. BBQ’s and parties 8. Joanna & my umbrella escapade 9. Watching “A River Runs Through It” for the first time(s) 10. Bible Class and CYC 11. People  12. Our every day life

 Apparently I was really into list-making during this time of my life. And super dramatic!

Let’s move on to the boy- craziness…

Sunday, May 1, 1994 9:54pm

Today was your average Sunday. We went to Sunday School and Meeting. I found out that Jimmy (sorry, “Jim”) likes me.  I’m not sure. Last night Mom found his paper from CYC and at the bottom he had written my name really fancy. The reason I thought it might be someone else was, maby someone at his school. I don’t know. It must have been me because I was sitting next to him last night.

He doesn’t act like it though. I mean he doesn’t follow me around or say anything. He is cute, (sort of), with his tan from Florida. He’s really not a bad guy, except for his foot fungus. (Personal joke.) I don’t know, it’s so confusing. I wish I could just know. Then I wouldn’t need to worry.

Wow, dude. I was really putting the pressure on myself over the mere idea that a guy might like me. I wish I could go back and tell myself to just chill and enjoy the thought and let things unfold in due time… but I guess that’s not how 13-year-old love goes.

Every summer, we had bible school for a week in July.  Our church group rented dorm rooms, lecture halls and other rooms at Shippensburg University for this event. It was pretty much all my CYC friends and I ever talked about. It was like our lives orbited around that one week in the summer.

I cant wait for bible school, so I can ogle guys!

I cant wait for bible school, so I can ogle guys!

As a young kid, I enjoyed bible school because it was basically summer camp and I got to spend lots of time playing with friends that I’d only see once or twice a year. When I got to be a teenager, it was all about the boys.

Sunday, June 26, 1994

Yesterday we went to Jim’s graduation party. Susie and I hung around. Jay wasn’t there. We swam and talked about Shippensburg. When it came time for the cake, everyone sand “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and then they sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I was embarrassed.

After cake, we went swimming. Jim came in too. You see, here’s why I’m confused. He’s always showing off around me, like in the pool, I was just standing there and he looked over at me real quick to see if I was watching and then he did a fancy little thing and swam across the pool. I wouldn’t think much of that except he did similar things twenty five million times that night.  Like, we were playing Marco Polo and I was standing on the deck with my foot in the water. He was it. He went “Fish out of water” and I didn’t move because my foot was in the water. He KNEW I was there, that’s why he said it! Then he used MY towel to dry himself off. I don’t know whether to like him or not!

Can I just mention that this guy that I’m talking about here had just graduated from high school. I had just graduated from 8th grade. Even if he DID want to date me, that’s kinda messed up.

In July, I wrote all about my week at Shippensburg. I’ll spare you the vast detail that I went into, describing what room number each of my friends resided in, and what hymns were sung at what times, and what outfits I wore (in case I ever wanted to recreate the experience in my future holodeck).

I will say that I did not mention Jim once in that account. Probably because I was hanging out with kids my own age and he was hanging out with older people. Or maybe he didn’t even go.

July 15, 1994

Today Joanna was here. She slept over last night. We had a CYC get together last night. It was OK.  Jim flirted with Joanna SO bad it was discusting. (In case you haven’t noticed, I DON’T like him anymore.) I can’t believe I ever liked him. I must have been eating something bad.

And so ended my brief obsession with Jim…

The rest of 1994 passed without any major imaginary love affairs. In August that year we went to visit my grandmother in Canada, which was an exciting trip at the time. In the fall, I started high school. I really didn’t write much about that. I think I was a little shy about sharing my actual feelings in this journal because I would often share it with Joanna when she visited, so I didn’t want to write anything too vulnerable. But let me tell you, I was pretty scared about high school most days. It was so huge and full of angsty teenagers, it was just not a happy place for me.

In closing, here is a lovely self-portrait I drew in my journal late one night:

I was tired a lot because I stayed up until 11 every night writing in my journal and then I had to get up at ungodly hours to get to the bus stop for school.

I was tired a lot because I stayed up until 11 every night writing in my journal and then I had to get up at ungodly hours to get to the bus stop for school.

Throwback Thursday – Highlights from 1993

For today’s Throwback Thursday, we’ll take a little stroll back to 1993 by cracking open the pages of my padded, tropically-festooned journal.

Really a hideous cover. I thought so even then, but I wrote my name on it anyway.

Really a hideous cover. I thought so even then, but I wrote my name on it anyway.

I was 12 when I transcribed the following:

January 31, 1993 (talking about a youth weekend I had just been to)

… on the way back from lunch we had a snowball fight and were pushing each other into the snow. Jason knocked Jay over and dislocated his shoulder, or at least that’s what Jay acted like. We had to put up with Jay all the way home. At least he didn’t cry!

He was just writhing in pain the whole 3 hour drive. How annoying!

February 1, 1993

Well, well! Jay found out today that his shoulder IS broken! In that case he was pretty brave.

I lost my unicorn earring. John & Nick gave them to me. I am mad & sad for losing it!

Still not terribly sympathetic… also, Nick was literally an infant at this point so it wasn’t like he and John went shopping together for the unicorn earrings.

February 2, 1993

On 911 tonight a little girl got her foot stuck IN the toilet! It was SO funny!

Were we the only family who watched Rescue 911 for the hilarity?

Just looking at this image triggers the theme song in my head.

Just looking at this image triggers the theme song in my head.

April 22, 1993

I have a knee problem now. What next? Boy Oh Boy! It’s called something or other disease, but it’s really not a disease. My shinbone has been growing fast, but my ligaments haven’t. So I’m pulling the ligaments. I have exercises to do to help.

So I just looked up the “disease” and it’s called Osgood-Schlatter Disease. I grew out of it, but totally milked it for all it was worth. No, I can’t participate in gym class today, my shins are acting up!

Oddly, I didn’t feel compelled to write about the fact that the doctor we went to diagnose my leg issues was the orthopedist that did my foot surgery when I was little. He was psyched to see me and he had me take off my shoe so he could look at my foot and see how well I was doing. I also remember that when the were taking an x-ray of my legs, the technician asked if I could possibly be pregnant. I was 12 and definitely not getting any action so I was kind of horrified to realize that technically I was old enough to get knocked up.

July 14, 1993

We watched A River Runs Through It. I liked it alot. Brad Pitt is so gorgeous. The end was sad because Paul (Brad Pitt) gets killed. Waaa.

Well I just finished making the worst batch of cookies that I’ve ever made. I have piano tonight. I haven’t practiced in 2 weeks. 

Brad Pitt

No words.

I’d had movie crushes before, but Brad Pitt stirred feelings in me like no other.

October 20, 1993

Tonight I went food shopping with Mom. In the bookstore I got two more Avonlea books. I also read a little book about Brad Pitt. His birthday is December 18, 1963. That makes him 30 years old! WOA!!! Excuse me I just had a major heart attack. I hope that is a mistake. Wait until I tell Joanna! She’ll freak!

Disregard the ugly shirt and look at that man cleavage.

Disregard the ugly shirt and look at that man cleavage.

Grocery shopping with Mom meant that I hung out in the bookstore next door until she was done. I wish grocery shopping was like that now.

30 years old is positively ancient to a 13-year-old. Reality hit me hard. Brad and I didn’t have a chance. My feelings for him are still strong though, as evidenced by my uncontrollable weeping after watching him in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

December 10. 1993

Today was my first day of home ec.(this year). It was ok. We had to stand up and say our names and stuff. I had a heart attack when I said that I hated to eat fish and I looked around and Bryan was glaring at me. He looked so weird! I guess he likes fish. Everyone had a cow when I said I had a Siberian Husky with blue eyes. 

I didn’t write much about school in this journal. I was too busy obsessing over Brad Pitt, or writing about whatever drama was going on with my friends outside of school. I did stick my report card in here though. Check out the comments. I always thought “Takes Pride in Achievement” was a weird one. What does that mean? I hang up my work on the fridge so everyone can see it?

Not exactly rocking the boat.

7th grade report card. Not exactly rocking the boat.

And that, in a nutshell was my life in 1993. It was a pretty calm year for me. I didn’t have any major surgeries, though I had a bunch of teeth pulled and was going through a lot of dental work to prepare for the next surgery (which wouldn’t be for another year and change.) Life was good!

Throwback Thursday: In My Heart Deeply Berred…

Sibling confessions

Sibling confessions

This throwback is true heart-warmer for me. There is no date on the paper so I don’t know exactly when it is from, or even why it was written in the first place. I have had it for a long time, tucked away in a box entitled “A Few of my Favorite Things”.

I vaguely remember my mom handing this paper to me when I was about 13. She found it while going through Kris’s school papers. If it was for an assignment, it must have been a rough draft because there are no markings or comments from a teacher on the page. I never told Kris I had it and I wonder now if he will remember writing it.

Typed as it was written – adorable spelling errors and all. 🙂 Also, please imagine this being spoken with a Philly accent.

In my heart deeply berred is someone I truely love. My sister Heather is a part of me. Some of me takes after her. It’s not bad. Thou sometimes I do get so upset when she goes oh, blast, I messed up on my picture! Even thou it’s almost perfect. But besides all that art in her theres another side and it’s humorous. She is funny. I have never lived a day with out a laugh from her. I can get out of control and when something happens I’m lost and don’t know what to say? But Heather is like Oh! My love are you alive! In a funny but nice way! I can refere to her for help even when I’m too embaressed to ask someone else. I’d be a snobby bratt without her. Whenever I’m down she helps me. I love it when we go places together by are selves. Even thou she looks different I don’t care. She is always the best and only sister I have. When a friend comes over and asks what’s wrong with her, I say “nothing!” She is the best sister in the world. I even tell people that she is Zach’s girlfriend and there like Hey she’s lucky! But with all honesty, she is the best you can get as a sister.

All together now: Awwww!

Anyone who has a sibling or two will understand that the relationship can be rather challenging sometimes. You’re basically thrown together with this other person and expected to share everything. Of course there end up being lots of frustrating moments where one person is grouchy and the other is goofy, or both of you want to use the same toy (or exist in the same space) at the same time and there is conflict. There was plenty of conflict with Kris and I, oftentimes just because it seemed easier than being nice. But there were a lot of good moments too, and I have many happy memories.

Never too old to be cheeseballs!

Never too old to be cheeseballs!

As Kris mentioned in his writing, we would sometimes go places together by ourselves. This was mostly just taking walks in the park next door, and when we moved to New Jersey, it meant riding our bikes to the shopping center and blowing our allowance money in Rite Aid. I think our age difference also made it tough sometimes. Since I am four years older than Kris, I was naturally going to be better at things, like beating Super Mario Bros. or building a play-doh sculpture.

Over the years Kris and I have been through a lot together and I am grateful to have him in my life. He is one of the few people who really knows me and ‘gets’ me. Now, instead of taking walks together or staying up late to tell scary stories, we do most of our bonding on road trips. We really don’t fight at all anymore, probably because we’re not sharing a bathroom. 🙂

Don't worry guys, this is fake conflict. I think.

Don’t worry guys, this is fake conflict. I think.

Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. (Mary Schmich)

Throwback Thursday – Thanksgiving 1991

Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope all of you reading this are having a lovely day with the people you care about most. Here’s a little flashback to 1991, when we lived in PA and always had a bunch of people over for Thanksgiving dinners. But I didn’t really describe much of that here. IMG_2550

What was I doing while the whole family gathered around? Playing Nintendo, of course!

Thursday November 28, 1991

Today was nice, I helped Mommy make stuffing, coleslaw, carrots. it was fun. Then around four o’clock the Mayocks came, then the Fausts and Uncle Jim, Aunt Boo, Lindsay and Jackie and Drew + Jane + Karen. Also Gram and Aunt Evelyn. Jay and I played Nintendo all night.

I had to include the next day’s entry too because I can’t stop laughing at the ridiculous self portrait I drew.

Friday November 29, 1991

Today was okay we had no school so we played outside today. I had fun. Tonight we watched TGIF. (Perfect Strangers, Full House and Family Matters, anyone? Whatever, I was 11!)

Anyway, check out what I imagined myself looking like “in at least 5 years”


It looks like I have a butt growing out of my chest. Much to my disappointment, I did not have anything resembling cantaloupes in my shirt 5 years later (or ever), but I did succeed in growing my hair very long and getting a nice set of teeth. I was pretty happy about that!

Kristina and me

Late 90’s. Still waiting for my melons to sprout.

Color Me, Don’t Color Me

The year is 1991. Kids really do wear their hair in aqua-net-encased creations of spiked mullets and towering bangs (the grunge wave has not yet reached our suburban landscape). My personal soundtrack consists of anything REM, the Bryan Adams’ single “Everything I Do”, and Disney’s Little Mermaid soundtrack. I think I am turning out to be pretty cool.

This is actually my 7th grade picture, but I had the same glasses in 6th grade so just go with it.

I have just started the sixth grade at Log College Middle School, and while I would never admit to actually liking school, it’s going pretty well so far. One day a teacher asks me to run a note to the principal’s office during class. The hallway is strangely empty and quiet without the usual between-class hustle and bustle. I walk briskly and cheerfully towards the principal’s office, enjoying my few moments’ escape from the classroom. At the far end of the hall I notice another girl walking toward me. As she gets closer I see her face is crumpled in a frown. Her lip curls up in a sneer.

“Why don’t you get some markers and color your hair?”

My heart leaps to my throat. Markers? I am so taken back by her strange statement that all I can do is look at her with a stunned expression. My face grows warm and I quickly turn away and walk faster towards the principal’s office. “Markers!” She yells at my back with a laugh.

Which color should I choose for my hair?

Which color should I choose for my hair?

By this time in my life I am used to kids finding something about me to make fun of, or to be freaked out by. I’ve come to expect it.  For the most part I’m able to ignore the stares and the whispers, but the feeling of being different and weird never really goes away. Still, there is always some hope that I can get through a day without anyone commenting on my looks, or pointing out how I’m different. 

A few days later, I am walking down the hall with a group of friends and I see the girl coming towards me again. I tense up and wait for her to strike. Our eyes lock as she approaches. She wrinkles up her nose and mutters “Get some markers, and color that white hair!” as she passes. “Shut up!” I whisper, feeling embarrassed. My friend Emilee turns around. “Were you just talking to that girl?” She asks. “No, it’s nothing,” I assure her.

Weeks go by and this continues. I don’t see this girl every day, but whenever I do she sneers and says something about markers. One afternoon in the library, I come across the yearbook from the previous year. I flip through and look at all the kids a year ahead of me. I spot her almost immediately, with her jaunty grin and cold eyes. The text beneath the picture says Moonbeam Landingham.

Wait, what? I laugh out loud right there in the library. Her name is actually Moonbeam Landingham. It’s like a made-up name! I am delighted with this revelation.

The next time I see her in the hall, she asks me if I’ve got any markers yet. “No, Moonbeam,” I retort, “Do you have any I could borrow?” Her eyes widen. She scurries up the stairway and I call out her name after her once more.

Moonbeam* never bothered me again after that.


Her name wasn’t actually Moonbeam Landingham, but it was something similar. I always wondered if her parents were hippies or if they were just having fun playing with an unusual last name.

While at the time I passionately hated “Moonbeam Landingham” because of the way she treated me, I have since realized that she probably had issues of her own that she was dealing with and maybe it made her feel powerful to pick on someone like me. With a name like hers, she probably got picked on herself.

What I learned from that experience was that sometimes all it takes to stop someone from bothering you is to stand up to them and show them you won’t take it. In this case, it took me discovering that this girl had a funny name to give me the courage to speak up. I’ve also learned that oftentimes people who are mean to others are really unhappy themselves. Of course that doesn’t give anyone the right to be mean, but it’s a reminder that it’s THEIR problem, not yours.